Wednesday, November 30, 2011

burden-bearer

Jesus is the Christ!

From Octavius Winslow in The Ministry of Home:

Jesus is the great Burden-Bearer of His people. No other arm, and no other heart, in heaven or upon earth, were strong enough, or loving enough, to bear these burdens but His! He who bore the weight of our sin and curse and shame in His obedience and death — bore it along all the avenues of His weary pilgrimage, from Bethlehem to Calvary — is He who now stretches forth His Divine arm, and makes bare a Brother’s heart to take your burden of care and of grief, dear saint of God, upon Himself.

HT:TR

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

the poor among us


I care deeply for the poor. I'm vested in both time and money to help in several ways here in Cincinnati. Yet I hate how we have politicized the truth (or untruth) and then misapplied Scripture (or 'christianized myths') to what we need to do about it. I thought Frank Turk provided a decent analysis of the current occupy events.

Here Thomas Sowell, reminding us of the 1991 false declaration that "One in eight American children is going hungry tonight” also confronts the notion of the poor in America stating:
Those who believe in an expansive, nanny-state government need a large number of people in “poverty” to justify their programs. They also need a large number of people dependent on government to provide the votes needed to keep the big nanny state going. 
Politicians, welfare-state bureaucrats, and others have incentives to create or perpetuate hoaxes, whether about poverty in general or hunger in particular. The high cost to taxpayers is exceeded by the even higher cost of lost opportunities for fulfillment by those who succumb to the lure of a stagnant life of dependency.
While his comments were in regard to education, J. Greshem Machen wrote, "A public school system, if it means the providing of free education for those who desire it, is a noteworthy and beneficent achievement of modern times; but when once it becomes monopolistic it is the most perfect instrument of tyranny which has yet been devised." I think we could substitute government anything in place of education and come to the same correct conclusion.

how to be set free

Justin Taylor reposts this excellent quote of John Piper in reference to 2 Tim 2.24-26:
When Paul says that “God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth,” that is virtually what happens in the new birth. And here is the key to liberating people from the captivity of the devil. God grants repentance—that is, he awakens the life that sees the ugliness and danger of sin and the beauty and worth of Christ, and that truth sets the prisoner free. It’s what happens when a person in the dark fondles an ebony broach hanging around his neck, and then the spiritual lights go on and he sees it’s not a broach but a cockroach and flings it away. That’s how people are set free from the devil. And until God does that miracle of new birth, we stay in bondage to the father of lies because we love to be able to tell ourselves whatever we please.
An excellent analogy for our reaction to sin and reminder that our warfare is spiritual.

Monday, November 28, 2011

christmas photography

I like generally love the photography at The Big Picture. These Christmas snaps are no exception.

I miss the Weihnachtsmarkt in Frankfurt.


But I didn't know about "caganer" ceramic figurines (this of former Alaska governor Sarah Palin) in Torroella de MontgrÃ, Spain. The caption informs me that statuettes of well-known people defecating are a strong Christmas tradition in Catalonia, dating back to the 18th century as Catalonians hide caganers in Christmas Nativity scenes and invite friends to find them. The figures symbolize fertilization, hope and prosperity for the coming year. Those crazy Catalonians ...


john schmidt - michael

The PianoGuys meet Mozart ... cool stuff ...

Sunday, November 27, 2011

good questions


Fred Sanders offers some good thoughts on good questions. This may be helpful to many but essential for small group leaders.

our motivation

Joe Thorn wrote what motivations mission from a reformed perspective:

Man’s total depravity moves me to preach Jesus Christ because I know that there is no hope (Eph 2.12) for a man to find his way to God, accidentally or intentionally, on his own. There is no hope of him believing the truth apart from the preaching of the Gospel (Rom 10.14-15). Because people are dead in their sins (Eph 2.1), and are unwilling to come to Christ apart from the Father’s drawing (Jn 6.44), I know that their salvation hinges on God’s sovereign work (Eph 2.9). I know that he uses the preaching of the Gospel as the means of awaking the dead (Ezk 37).

The doctrine of election encourages me to share the Gospel, because I am assured that God has chosen a people (Eph 1.3-6) for himself. Like Jesus, the prophets and the Apostles, I preach indiscriminately to all, trusting that all who were predestined to eternal life will believe (Acts 13.48), if not now, later.

Particular redemption compels me to tell others about Jesus because not a drop of Christ’s blood was wasted. Because Jesus has purchased people from every tribe, tongue and nation (Rev 5.9) we understand that God has sent us where we are, and is sending others around the world to preach Christ crucified with the awareness that He is building his church. Christ has accomplished redemption for his people (Mt 1.21; Jn 19.30; Eph 5.25-27; Heb 1.3), and it only awaits application.

The doctrine of effectual grace pushes me out of my study and into the community with the Gospel because I know that, although I may fail to persuade someone, God will not (Phil 1.6). Because a leopard cannot change his spots, nor man his nature (Jer 13.23), I am relieved to know that God will cause a man to be born again (1 Pet 1.3). So I tell as many as I am able the good news that we have in Jesus, with the hope that God will open hearts to respond to the word (Acts 16.14).

sunday tv

Too much of this going on today ...


Saturday, November 26, 2011

the law and change

Ravi Zacharias deals with the law from a Christian perspective. I love this, "The Christian faith is not devoid of a moral law; it sets it on a higher plain." And, "You and I are not Christians by the denomination or the abomination we belong to."

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

conditions for righteousness


Michael Horton in The Gospel-Driven Life:

This is the scandal of justification: How can God declare us righteous if we are not inherently righteous? Isn’t this a legal fiction? Doesn’t it make God a liar? But that’s like thinking that God cannot say, ‘Let there be light’ unless there is already a sun to give it. God himself creates the conditions necessary for the existence of his work. When he says, ‘Let there be light!’ the sun exists. When he says, ‘Let this ungodly person be righteous,’ ‘this barren woman be pregnant,’ ‘this faithless person embrace my Word,’ it is so.

When we really understand justification, we really understand how God works with us in every aspect of our lives before him. Christ lived the purpose-driven life so that we would inherit his righteousness through faith and be promise-driven people in a purpose-driven world. He did gain the everlasting inheritance by obedience to everything God commanded, driven by the purpose of fulfilling the law for us, in perfect love of God and neighbor, and he bore its judgments against us. His resurrection guarantees that the law of sin and death does not have the last word over us. He fulfilled the original purpose and commission for human existence, glorifying and enjoying his Father to the fullest. And he did this as our covenantal head, our representative, not simply as a moral example. Just as we were ‘in Adam’ at the fall, we were legally included ‘in Christ’ as he fulfilled all righteousness, bore our sins, and rose from the dead in victory.

HT:OFI

transport to china

Hmmm ... well, why not? I have room in my thinking for this. But I wonder if he had a proper visa? (sorry - couldn't resist)

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

invincible grace

John Newton in The Letters of John Newton – To the Rev. Thomas Scott on God's invincible grace:

II. Do I think that God, in the ordinary course of his providence, grants this assistance in an irresistible manner, or effects faith and conversion without the sinner’s own hearty consent and concurrence? I rather chose to term grace invincible than irresistible. For it is too often resisted even by those who believe; but, because it is invincible, it triumphs over all resistance when He is pleased to bestow it. For the rest, I believe no sinner is converted without his own hearty will and concurrence. But he is not willing till he is made so. Why does he at all refuse? Because he is insensible of his state; because he knows not the evil of sin, the strictness of the law, the majesty of God whom he has offended, nor the total apostasy of his heart; because he is blind to eternity, and ignorant of the excellency of Christ; because he is comparatively whole, and sees not his need of this great Physician; because he relies upon his own wisdom, power, and supposed righteousness. Now in this state of things, when God comes with a purpose of mercy, he begins by convincing the person of sin, judgment, and righteousness, causes him to feel and know that he is a lost, condemned, helpless creature, and then discovers to him the necessity, sufficiency, and willingness of Christ to save them that are ready to perish, without money or price, without doings or deservings.

HT:TOG

leadership training

Sadly this is too often true ...


marriage and the dance floor

Great post by Jen Smidt on 7 marriage lessons learned on the dance floor ...

1. The Woman Can't Lead

In smooth and successful swing dancing, there is a clearly identified leader that knows the tempo of the music, the order of the steps, and what's coming up next. If the partner is always struggling for control, the steps are clumsy and there is no rhythm.

We were never able to establish a fluid motion of dance when I was vying with Phil for his role. I certainly needed to be paying close attention and know the steps for myself; I could not be a passive, uninvolved partner. But, I did need to wait for the gentle pressure that Phil would exert on my hand or shoulder, sending me off in the right direction.

In the same way, I cannot lead in our marriage. God gave that job to Phil and our life is much more beautiful and smooth when I let him fulfill that calling.

2. Don't Tell Your Partner What to Do

Our instructor had to correct me for this several times as I was regularly “reminding” Phil of his steps. Problem was, I didn’t really know Phil’s steps. I had an idea of what was required of him, but I truly had no clue. He was standing opposite me, using different feet for each unique move. He knew his prescribed set of steps and I didn’t need to know what each was. I simply had to trust him to lead so I could more easily concentrate on what I needed to do.

Similarly, I do not have the entire picture of what God has called Phil to be and do as leader of our home. I need to trust that he is seeking God for his calling, which frees me up to focus on mine.

3. Add Creative Flair at the Right Time

I came to discover that my favorite part of dancing was the extra shoulder shimmy I was free to slip in when I was headed in the right direction.

As a wife, there is so much creativity and flair that I can add to my marriage when I am under Phil’s leadership and protection. The overall effect is a delightful and unique version of this dance called life—Phil and Jen style.

I need to trust that he is seeking God for his calling, which frees me up to focus on mine.

4. Stepping on Toes Is Painful

It’s gonna happen; especially when we are just learning or trying something new. We must humble ourselves enough to ask forgiveness for the toe smashing—no matter how painful or whether it was intentional. It makes for restored closeness for the rest of the dance.

5. Don't Compare Yourselves to the Couple Dancing Next to You

Phil has a very calm, cool, understated manner about him in life, and on the dance floor. He is not the guy with the flashy moves and crazy stunts, but I do know what I can expect from him: he is consistent. Our teacher complimented him on his smoothness and I would miss it if I’m looking around to see how good we look compared to the next couple.

God has called us to our particular rhythm, tempo and moves for our marriage; we don’t get to dance to someone else’s song!

6. Remember the Basics

Sharon, our instructor, always reminded us that if we got lost in the dance sequence, we could always come back to Step 1 and get re-synced. We both knew what came next when we remembered where we came from.

In our marriage, there are times when one (or both) of us has forgotten the way—lost sight of what we are about. When we re-orient ourselves on the basics, we find our way again.

Our marriage is about reflecting Jesus to each other and the world around us. Our marriage is about worship—enjoying God’s presence together. When we get spun out of control and focused on the wrong dance, we must always go back to the basics: "We love because He first loved us" (1 John 4:9).

7. Keep Going

This last lesson is one of the hardest for me: perseverance. It is required on the dance floor and it is required in life. We are going to make mistakes, be off tempo and out of sync, but we must keep going. There are no do-overs in life—only do differently. We must have our eyes firmly fixed on Christ—the author and perfector (and choreographer) of our faith. As we continue the dance, we will recognize him more and more in ourselves and each other.

Monday, November 21, 2011

god favorably turned toward us


Michael Horton in The Gospel-Driven Life:

Christ’s present reign at the Father’s right hand is not an unproductive hiatus in his ministry on our behalf. Rather, it is securing in heaven the realities that the Spirit is bringing to us and within us, individually and corporately, on earth. God’s grace is not an infused substance or a created thing, but God himself — in Christ — favorably turned toward us, bringing salvation.

HT:OFI

multidirectional cross


What is the place of the cross of Christ in this cosmic restoration? As was the case in the previous passages that we explored, the cross is front and center in reconciliation in Colossians 1 too. God was pleased “to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross” (v. 20). The cross, therefore, is multidirectional. Taking into account all of Scripture’s teaching, the cross is directed toward God himself (in propitiation); toward our enemies, including demons, to defeat them; toward men and women to redeem them; and toward the whole creation to deliver it from “its bondage to decay” and to bring it into “the freedom of the glory of the children of God” (Rom. 8:21). Why will all of these things occur? Why will we be finally saved? Why will the Devil and evil angels not ruin the shalom of the new creation but instead be cast into the lake of fire? Why will there be a new heaven and a new earth? All of these questions have the same answer: because the Son of God died and rose again on the third day.

HT:TR

fundraisers

I hate so-called christian fundraising ...


Sunday, November 20, 2011

before the call

John Calvin describes the elect before our call (via The Old Guys) ...

10. The elect before their call. There is no “seed of election”

The elect are gathered into Christ’s flock by a call not immediately at birth, and not all at the same time, but according as it pleases God to dispense his grace to them. But before they are gathered unto that supreme Shepherd, they wander scattered in the wilderness common to all; and they do not differ at all from others except that they are protected by God’s especial mercy from rushing headlong into the final ruin of death. If you look upon them, you will see Adam’s offspring, who savor of the common corruption of the mass. The fact that they are not carried to utter and even desperate impiety is not due to any innate goodness of theirs but because the eye of God watches over their safety and his hand is outstretched to them!

what is evil

While the postmodern innovator redefines or even minimizes evil, God is very clear. Here is a Scripture summary from Justin Taylor.

Isaiah 55:1— Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat!

John 7:37-38— Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’”

John 4:13-14— Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

Jeremiah 2:13— My people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water.

photo contest 2011


Some fantastic images: National Geographic Photo Contest 2011

lewis v. bell

Michael Patton tackles the question, why do we love C.S. Lewis and hate Rob Bell? I agree with his analysis. Read his post here. Below are some key points ... and these are important since many of Bell's defenders use the difference in our response to Lewis and Bell as a sign of hypocrisy; it is not - they just do not understand the argument. Patton does a nice job explaining that difference.

First of all, no one hates Rob Bell (or at least, no one should).

... while C.S. Lewis has a great deal of theological foibles, his ministry is defined by a defense of the essence of the Gospel. The essence of who Christ is and what he did are ardently defended by Lewis, saturating every page of his books. His purpose was clear: to defend the reality of God and the Lordship of Jesus Christ. All other things set aside, this is what you leave with every time you read Lewis. The problematic areas are peripheral, not central. One has to look hard to find the departures from traditional Protestant Christianity. They are not the subjects of his works and do not form the titles of his books.

However, with Rob Bell, the essence of who Christ is and what he did seems to be secondary. One has to look for those things as they weed through his defenses of non-traditional Christianity. Whereas Lewis’ ultimate purpose is to define and defend “mere” Christianity, Bell’s “mere” Christianity is but a footnote to a redefined Christianity. Bell’s focus is to challenge, question, change, reform, and emerge from traditions that bind us. Traditional apologetics, orthodoxy, and foundations are brought into question from beginning to end. Christ’s reality, deity, exclusivity, and the hope of the Gospel proclaimed receive an occasional footnote (if at all) from Bell.

Another way to put this is to say that in the ministry of C.S. Lewis, the central truths of the Christian faith are the chorus of his songs, with the occasional problem in the stanzas. However, with Bell, the chorus of his song is filled with challenges to traditional Christianity and if you listen really closely to the stanza, you might get an occasional line of orthodoxy.

... it is not just Rob Bell that is at issue. There are dozens of popular writers, pastors, bloggers, and authors who are singing the same chorus. They give lip service to the essence of Christianity, but from their platform it is only peppered in here and there. I think this is the core problem with what is/was known as the “emerging church.” It is not that we are against rethinking, reimagining, reforming, or any other “re,” it is that this became the central focus of the movement. Christ, the cross, sin, righteousness, and all other elements that create the essence of who we are became the subjects of challenges – mere lines in the song. This is why I distinguish between, say, Brian Mclaren and Dan Kimball. Both men, early on, were considered part of the “emerging church.” However, though he challenges some ideas here and there, Dan Kimball (like C.S. Lewis) is committed to the essence of the historic Christian faith. Truth, doctrine, love, and righteousness are found in everything he writes and says. They are the chorus. With Mclaren, on the other hand, traditional Christian beliefs and practices form more of (what seems to be) an embarrassing afterthought that he proclaims only under duress.

This is why I don’t like comparing C.S. Lewis to Rob Bell. There is no comparison. Neither is it fair to team Rob Bell up with many of the great saints of the past, such as the Cappidocians or Origen (as is often done). Yes, they all have problems, but the question is, Do these problems define the essence of their ministry and passion? With Rob Bell (and many like him), they do. With most of the other historic figures that some try to put on Bell’s team, they don’t.

before and after pentecost


The Spirit Before and After Pentecost Did the Spirit not prowl the earth, seeking whom he may save before his coming at Pentecost? Is God's Spirit not omnipresent? How did people love and obey God before Pentecost if we believe, as Jesus said, he would be sent after the Lord's ascension?

John Piper explains with a neat illustration:

Now let me suggest an analogy to illustrate the experience of the Spirit before and after Pentecost. Picture a huge dam for hydroelectric power under construction, like the Aswan High Dam on the Nile, 375 feet high and 11,000 feet across. Egypt's President Nasser announced the plan for construction in 1953. The dam was completed in 1970 and in 1971 there was a grand dedication ceremony and the 12 turbines with their ten billion kilowatt-hour capacity were unleashed with enough power to light every city in Egypt. During the long period of construction the Nile River wasn't completely stopped. Even as the reservoir was filling, part of the river was allowed to flow past. The country folk downstream depended on it. They drank it, they washed in it, it watered their crops and turned their mill-wheels. They sailed on it in the moonlight and wrote songs about it. It was their life. But on the day when the reservoir poured through the turbines a power was unleashed that spread far beyond the few folk down river and brought possibilities they had only dreamed of.

Well, Pentecost is like the dedicatory opening of the Aswan High Dam. Before Pentecost the river of God's Spirit blessed the people of Israel and was their very life. But after Pentecost the power of the Spirit spread out to light the whole world. None of the benefits enjoyed in the pre-Pentecostal days were taken away. But ten billion kilowatts were added to enable the church to take the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ to every tongue and tribe and nation.

god's goal


“The supreme goal of God in history from beginning to end is the manifestation of his great glory. Accordingly our duty is to bring our thoughts, affections, and actions into line with this goal. It should become our own goal. To join God in this goal is called glorifying God. The way we glorify God is first to delight in his glory more than in anything else and be grateful for it. Then as a natural result of this joy in God we experience freedom from selfishness and are moved to seek the good of others. Thus love becomes the chief means by which we join God in the open display of his glory, and accomplish his goal in history.”

Amen!

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

son of god

Me, I hate bumper stickers ... although as a member of the Apple cult I have the little logo in my rear window ... but now for some funny stuff ...


occupy thoughts

I do not recommend reading Pyromaniacs for a number of reasons yet at times their thinking and posts are brilliant. Here, one of the team provides an excellent analysis of data that should give pause to those embracing the "occupy" movement. Please read the post, it's insightful and the conclusion, below, is spot on.

"So I say all that to say this: your problem is not actually on Wall Street, or Atlanta, or San Fran, or any other city. It is actually in your own heart -- and your accuser is not me and my blog-audacity, but the billions who look at you incredulously and see you complaining that you have a silver spoon in your mouth rather than a platinum one. Your problem is the problem of all mankind, which is sin. .

And the only cure for sin is repentance and faith in the only savior of men, Jesus Christ. .

So today, when you read this, don't gird up your loins to context the data: repent. Turn away from your simplistic materialism and repent."

small government

Some wise words by John Mark Reynolds ... emphasis is mine. I am always surprised when professing Christians look for answers in government but when I look at those individuals I often find fundamental differences in the Christian perspective ... how to do government is simply a symptom of those differences.

And now JMR's post ...

Economists tell us how the economy goes, but God tells us how it should go.

Christians know what God hates: oppression of the poor, stealing, and covetousness.

The rich must not oppress the poor. The rotten deals between big business and big government are an odor of death in Heaven’s nostrils. Big government will always be in the hands of looters and moochers with the money to buy favors.

Both parties reward donors with graft, favorable regulations, and special laws while ignoring the rest of America. It sickens me to see President Bush and President Obama declare some corporations “too big to fail” while the jobless rate grows. Big corporations hire lobbyists and lawyers to escape regulation. Mom and pop struggle to run a business, but are strangled by regulations designed to enshrine special favors to those in the economic aristocracy.

Most American Christians favor small government because we know that large government will always fall into the hands of those wealthy enough to buy favor. Public servants face inevitable corruption becoming bureaucrats bloated on boodle.

The power to do great good will corrupt, the power to reach utopia will corrupt absolutely.

In this sad time, Christianity offers hope of improvement, but no promise of utopia this side of paradise. Perfection is the enemy of good enough and good enough is all we can safely hope to see. The party that promises perfection today will strangle our liberty and make this life hell on earth.

Christians are content with two basic ideals.

The rich and the poor must receive equal justice before the law. Most Americans are convinced that money can buy a lawyer and that lawyers are no longer advocates of justice. The law is in the hands of sophists who will argue that good is bad for a fee.

Minority and poor defendants too often do time while rich defendants walk away. Christianity demands that the law not respect the rich more than the poor, but the prison terms given to drug offenders in the inner city compared to drug offenders from the suburbs mocks this notion.

We ask for a reformation in the law so that all Americans can anticipate an equal chance at justice. Christians reject special favors of the law for any man or woman based on wealth.

If the rich must not be favored, then the poor must not covet or steal the wealth of the rich. While the rich get no special favors, the poor cannot prosper by theft, graft, or threats. Too often the rich are forced to buy off the poor, or the false friends of the poor, with bribes.

Wealth stolen from the rich by punitive taxation is no more justice than wealth “liberated” by direct theft. An American should not face unequal taxation based only on his or her success.

It is not a crime to be rich and no virtue to be poor. It is injustice to favor the poor because they are poor just as much as to favor the rich because they are rich.

All of us should do to others as we would have them do to us. This simple idea from the mouth of the Lord Jesus Christ would protect the rich and the poor. The Golden Rule would necessitate treating all humans as humans and not as “rich” or “poor.”

As we are equal before the judgment seat of God, so we must be equal before the throne of God.

Human beings have a God given right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. It is impossible for a man or woman to reach their full potential without the chance for meaningful employment.

Theodore Roosevelt was right that government must act to defend the consumer from corrupt private wealth.

Ronald Reagan was correct in asserting that states and private individuals must be given liberty from oppressive government taxation and regulation.

When we pay for our welfare today by borrowing our grandchildren’s taxes, we act like sybaritic Romans and not as patriots.

Americans would accept a higher tax load if it came with reduced government spending and a balanced budget. Both parties have refused reasonable compromise on these issues. Like Reagan, Republicans should accept a social safety net and end the fantasy of a stateless state. Like Clinton, Democrats should accept that the era of big government must end.

Christians fear gigantic states, businesses, or organizations because we put no trust in humankind. We know we are all fallible: church, state, society, and business. By dividing power as equally as possible between each sphere of society and through prophetic cries for justice, we hope to lessen the pain of broken humanity longing for justice.

We reject the utopian delusions of no state and of an omni-competent state.

American Christians reject any king, but King Jesus. We reject any theocracy before King Jesus returns, because humans would have to run it. We long for justice tempered with mercy and we will vote for the man or woman who will give us a government small enough to allow liberty, but big enough to preserve it.

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

gospel need

In discussing Richard Phillips' book Jesus the Evangelist, Tim Challies quotes the following from James Montgomery Boice (I love it).
It is difficult to imagine a greater contrast between two persons than the contrast between the important and sophisticated Nicodemus, this ruler of the Jews, and the simple Samaritan woman. He was a Jew; she was a Samaritan. He was a Pharisee; she belonged to no religious party. He was a politician; she had no status whatever. He was a scholar; she was uneducated. He was highly moral; she was immoral. He had a name; she is nameless. He was a man; she was a woman. He came at night to protect his reputation; she, who had no reputation, came at noon. Nicodemus came seeking; the woman was sought by Jesus. 
A great contrast. Yet the point of the stories is that both the man and the woman needed the gospel and were welcome to it. If Nicodemus is an example of the truth that no one can rise so high as to be above salvation, the woman is an example of the truth that none can sink too low.
This is powerful to me. I watch in sadness as groups of professing Christians seem to either reject the disenfranchised yet embrace and support the well-to-do in spite of wrong-doing or conversely, demonstrate tremendous compassion toward those in need yet spew venom toward anyone of any means presuming it came about via some evil - or at least selfishness.

What Boice right notes is that we all have the same need. Without God, we are all fallen sinners and with Him, we are adopted heirs.

the gospel

John Piper in Desiring God:

The death of Christ is the wisdom of God by which the love of God saves sinners from the wrath of God, all the while upholding and demonstrating the righteousness of God in Christ.

HT:OFI

fruitful for whom

Here, therefore, let us stand fast: our life shall best conform to God’s will and the prescription of the law when it is in every respect more fruitful for our brethren.
If our lives are right under God we will by definition bear fruit for others.

wise men

As we draw near the holiday season it's time to start asking once again, were there really three wise men. I say no.


Monday, November 07, 2011

engineering flowchart

This helpful Engineering Flowchart was brought to my attention by Ben Thomas.


introduction to homosexuality

Thanks to Justin Taylor for drawing attention to Professor Sam Williams' one hour Introduction to Homosexuality: Causes, Change, and the Gospel.


In this Williams discusses:
  • What causes homosexuality?
  • Can we be responsible for that which is not consciously chosen?
  • What is the difference between having same-same attraction, same-sex orientation, and being “gay” or “lesbian”?
  • How many people self-identify in these ways? Do people with same-same attraction actually change?
  • How can they change?
  • What does the gospel have to do with this issue?
  • How can we promote change in the church for those who struggle?
I agree with Williams' opening point, "I view every aspect of homosexuality as a product of the fall and of the sin nature; it's just not the way it's supposed to be."

He then used the following graphic to begin discussing differences between Same Sex Attraction (SSA), Same Sex Orientation (SSO),  and truly identifying as gay or lesbian. One thing that irks me more than those espousing the LGBT agenda is Christians failing to understand the difference between our desires and our nature. Remembering this and applying the information explained by Williams will help us a lot as we bring the Gospel to those entangled in this (or any other) sin.




To quote Williams, "Homosexual identity is a decision. It is personal and contextual. ... Homosexual as an identity is a historical artifact belonging only to contemporary western culture. It is a personal and social interpretation and not an incorrigible fact."

In our fallen nature, we all have sinful desires. For a person with SSA or SSO to move to a place of identifying as a homosexual, they have gone through some challenges. Sadly the world, under Satan's influence, is eager to help sinners find identity in sinful desires. This is not the Christian position.

David Wells said, "worldliness is that system of values in any given age which has at its center our fallen human perspective which displaces God and His truth from the world and which makes sin look normal and righteousness seem strange. It thus gives great plausibility to what is morally wrong and for that reason makes what is wrong seem normal."

We have the choice to find our identity in a Christian or a worldly framework. The key issue is which framework will one use to view one's desires?

So when we ask what causes homosexuality in regard to biology, temperament, or environment; the honest answer is we don't know and it probably varies.  Williams uses the following slides to discuss.


The key is that as Christians we can and should be quick to agree that people are "born that way". All of us are born slaves to sin. All of us need God's grace to choose to not sin and all of us are held accountable for our choice to reject or accept His grace.


As Williams so wonderful puts it, "We have a God who aims to interpret and govern and redeem every part of our lives. The good news of God is that whatever is distorted and broken can and will in God's good time be restored and healed. Christ assumed a full human nature to heal all of human nature.

Disordered desires of all sorts result from disordered worship."

Let us ensure that in the midst of sin that it is the Gospel of Christ that is seen and heard and in that, and that alone, their is healing and freedom from all manner of bondage.

shadow puppets

"The disciples had to admit that even at shadow puppets Jesus was clearly the best." Should I laugh or be offended? I laughed ...


god's goal

Many are confused these days due to a inaccurate or imprecise understanding of God's Ultimate Goal. In that regard, John Piper writes the following in A Holy Ambition:
God’s main, ultimate goal is to uphold and display his glory. That is the seemingly offensive thing to many people. It just sounds so self-centered, self-exalting, and feels bad to people. The key to why God’s self-exaltation, that is, the pursuit of the magnifying of his own glory, is not vicious but virtuous, not unloving but loving, is this word enjoyment. He is doing it for the enjoyment of his people. If God did not preserve and exalt his glory, you would not be given the very thing that you were designed to be most satisfied by, namely God, and God’s glory. He is the one being in the universe for whom self-exaltation is the highest virtue and the greatest act of love. When you stand in front of God, if you’re thinking God’s thoughts and not the world’s thoughts, what you want is for God to say, Hey, stand in front of me and watch THIS! And then for him to be God, in his fullness of grace and justice, so that you can spend eternity enjoying that and going deeper into that.
And related, at least in my mind, is this timely post by Justin Holcomb:


The Old Testament prophets looked forward to the Day of the Lord—a divine visitation to purge the world of sin and evil and to establish God’s perfect reign on the earth. With the ministry of Jesus, the Day of the Lord began, and something cosmically significant happened.

Salvation Is Finished
Jesus came as the God-man to bear his people’s judgment on the cross, to rescue sinners from their enemies of sin and death by his resurrection, and to inaugurate his kingdom. Mark tells us, “Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand’” (Mark 1:14-15).

Salvation Is Here
Because of the life, death, and resurrection of Christ, eternal life has already begun in one sense. In the midst of sin, death, and decay, there is real life right now. For those who trust in Christ, our future is now. Those who trust in Christ already have so much:

  • We have new hearts (2 Cor. 5:17)
  • We have been made alive with Christ (Eph. 2:5)
  • We have received a spirit of adoption (Rom. 8:15-16)

The knowledge that softens the blow of grief is not an abstract platitude but the real resurrection of Jesus.

Salvation Is Coming
But there is more to come that has not yet been fully realized:

  • We will have transformed bodies, not just hearts (2 Cor. 15:50-55)
  • We will be resurrected like Christ (Rom. 6:5)
  • We will experience the fullness of being adopted by God (Rom. 8:23)

Already But Not Yet
We live now in the overlap between the “already” and the “not yet.” This means that the sufferings of now do not compare to the glory that will be revealed in us (Rom. 8:18). This means creation groans now but will be liberated (Rom. 8:20-22). This means we now dwell in a temporary earthly tent but will have eternal heavenly bodies (2 Cor. 5:1). This means we are saved in hope (Rom. 8:24) but will be saved from wrath (Rom. 5:9).

Future Hope
The kingdom of God and salvation is real now, but not yet fully realized. Why does this matter?

The loss that causes grief is very real, but is temporary. The knowledge that softens the blow of grief is not an abstract platitude but the real resurrection of Jesus. Our grief now is in the context of a future hope (1 Thess. 4:13-18). The hope of the new creation frames (though it does not erase) our present mourning: “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away” (Rev. 21:3-4).


Sunday, November 06, 2011

patience


Great post by Jon Bloom at Desiring God.

Ask the Apostle Paul to explain love (agápē) and the first thing out of his mouth: “Love is patient” (1 Corinthians 13:4).

Forget the rest of his list for a moment; my work is already cut out for me.

I’m prone to impatience. I can’t honestly blame this merely on my temperament or my family of origin. Patience is a fruit of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22). Impatience is a fruit of selfishness. And selfish is simply an ugly, accurate description of my fallen, depraved nature, which wants all of creation to serve me. Selfishness is the real archenemy of love:
Selfishness seeks its own private happiness at the expense of others. Love seeks its happiness in the happiness of the beloved. It will even suffer and die for the beloved in order that its joy might be full in the life the purity of the beloved (John Piper, Desiring God, 206-207).
Love is patient because patience is a dying to selfishness. It is the belief that in this dying we will find greater joy in the joy of the ones we are seeking to love: God and neighbors. It’s one of the ways we fulfill the two greatest commandments (Matthew 22:37-40).

Nine Verses to Consider

The Bible says we are to be:

“Patien[tly] bearing with one another in love,” (Ephesians 4:2) “Patient with them all [the idle, fainthearted, and weak]” (1 Thessalonians 5:14) “Reprov[ing], rebuk[ing], and exhort[ing], with complete patience” (2 Timothy 4:2) “Patient in tribulation” (Romans 12:12) “Patiently endur[ing]…sufferings” (2 Corinthians 1:6) “Patiently enduring evil” (2 Timothy 2:24) “Imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises” (Hebrews 6:12) “Still before the Lord and wait patiently for him” (Psalm 37:7) “Patient…until the coming of the Lord” (James 5:7) There are really no loopholes here. We are to be patient with people, pain, evil, and God.

What It Is and Isn't

Patience requires both faith and humility. It requires that whenever things go differently than we envision or wish, we believe that God is working all things for good (Romans 8:28), that he will complete all the good things he begins (Philippians 1:6), and that we can trust him because our understanding is incomplete and inaccurate at best (Proverbs 3:5-6).

Patience is not permissive; it doesn’t think sin or injustice is okay. Neither is patience passive; it doesn’t do nothing. It is just a relentless trust in all that we do, and all that we cannot do, that God will deal with everything in perfect justice (Deuteronomy 32:4). And he will accomplish all his purposes (Isaiah 46:10). Therefore we do not need to get angry.

Ultimately, love is patient because God is patient: “The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love” (Psalm 103:8). And that’s why we are to be “quick to hear, slow to speak, [and] slow to anger” (James 1:19).

You and I and Our Opportunity

So, today you and I will have an opportunity, likely numerous ones, to lay down our lives for the sake of Christ. It will come when we are tempted to be impatient. That moment will be our invitation to love.

And if we fail, we will not fear condemnation (Romans 8:1). The cross has already paid for that sin. We will just get up, repent of our failure to God and to others, rejoice in the grace of Jesus, and press on to grow in the grace of patient love.

great salvation


Sinclair Ferguson from In Christ Alone:

Before all time; prior to all worlds; when there was nothing ‘outside of’ God Himself; when the Father, Son, and Spirit found eternal, absolute, and unimaginable blessing, pleasure, and joy in Their holy triunity — it was Their agreed purpose to create a world. That world would fall. But in unison — and at infinitely great cost — this glorious triune God planned to bring you (if you are a believer) grace and salvation. This is deeper grace from before the dawn of time. It was pictured in the rituals, the leaders, and the experiences of the Old Testament saints, all of whom longed to see what we see. All this is now ours. Our salvation depends on God’s covenant, rooted in eternity, foreshadowed in the Mosaic liturgy, fulfilled in Christ, enduring forever. No wonder Hebrews calls it ‘so great a salvation’ (Heb. 2:3).

HT:OFI

interview of a homophobe

Trevin Wax did a great job out-lining how he (we) would like to see the homosexual debate go ...

Just once, I’d like to see a TV interview go more like this:

Host: You are a Christian pastor, and you say you believe the Bible, which means you are supposed to love all people.

Pastor: That’s right.

Host: But it appears to me that you and your church take a rather unloving position when it comes to gay people. Are homosexuals welcome to come to your church?

Pastor: Of course. We believe that the gospel is a message relevant for every person on the planet, and we want everyone to hear the gospel and find salvation in Jesus Christ. So at our church, our arms are outstretched to people from every background, every race, every ethnicity and culture. We’re a place for all kinds of sinners and people with all kinds of problems.

Host: But you said there, “We’re a place for sinners.” So you do believe that homosexuality is sinful, right?

Pastor: Yes, I do.

Host: So how do you reconcile the command to love all people with a position on homosexuality that some would say is radically intolerant?

Pastor: (smiling) If you think my position on homosexuality is radical, just wait until you hear what else I believe! I believe that a teenage guy and girl who have sex in the backseat of a pick-up are sinning. The unmarried heterosexual couple living down the street from me is sinning. In fact, any sexual activity that takes place outside of the marriage covenant between a husband and wife is sinful. What’s more, Jesus takes this sexual ethic a step further and goes to the heart of the matter. That means that any time I even lust after someone else, I am sinning. Jesus’ radical view of sexuality shows all of us up as sexual sinners, and that’s why He came to die. Jesus died to save lustful, homo- and heterosexual sinners and transform our hearts and minds and behavior. Because He died for me, I owe Him my all. And as a follower of Jesus, I’m bound to what He says about sex and morality.

Host: But Jesus didn’t condemn homosexuality outright, did He?

Pastor: He didn’t have to. He went to the heart issue and intensified the commands against immoral behavior in the Old Testament. So Jesus doesn’t just condemn adultery, for example, as does one of the Ten Commandments. Jesus condemns even the lust that leads to adultery, all with the purpose of offering us transformed hearts that begin beating in step with His radical demands.

Host: You say he condemned adultery, but he chose not to condemn the woman caught in adultery.

Pastor: That’s right, but He did tell her to “go and sin no more.”

Host: But who are you to condemn someone who doesn’t line up with your personal beliefs about sexuality?

Pastor: Who am I? No one. It’s not all that important what I think about these things. This conversation about homosexuality isn’t really about my personal beliefs. They’re about Jesus and what He says. I have no right to condemn or judge the world. That right belongs to Jesus. My hope is to follow Him faithfully. That means that whatever He says in regard to sexual practices is what I believe to be true, loving, and ultimately best for human flourishing – even when it seems out of step with the whims of contemporary culture.

Host: But you are judging. You are telling all the gay people watching this broadcast that they are sinners.

Pastor: I’m not singling out gay people. I’m pointing to Jesus as the answer to all sexual sinfulness.

Host: But you are referring to gay people. Why are you so focused on homosexuality?

Pastor: (smiling) With all due respect, you are the one who brought up this subject.

Host: Are you saying that you can’t be gay and Christian?

Pastor: No. I’m saying that you can’t be a genuine Christian without repentance. Everyone – including me – is guilty of sin, but Christianity hinges on repentance. We agree with God about our sin, and we turn from it and turn toward Jesus. When it comes to Christianity, this debate is not about homosexuality versus other sins. It’s about whether or not repentance is integral to the Christian life.

Host: But do you see why a homosexual watching this might think you are attacking them personally? You’re saying that something is wrong with them.

Pastor: I think Jesus’ teaching on sexuality shows us that there is something wrong with all of us – something that can only be fixed by what Jesus did for us on the cross and in His resurrection. That said, I understand why people might think I am attacking them personally. Most people with same-sex desires believe they were born with these tendencies. That’s why they often see their attraction as going to the very core of who they are, and so they identify themselves with the “gay” label. So whenever someone questions their behavior or desires, they take it as an attack on the very core of their being. That’s usually not the intent of the person who disagrees with homosexual behavior. But that’s the way it is perceived. I understand that.

Host: If it’s true that a person is born with one sexual orientation or another, then how can it possibly be loving to condemn one person’s orientation?

Pastor: Well, we really don’t know for certain about sexual attraction being innate and set from birth. All we have is the testimony of people who say that they’ve experienced same-sex desires since childhood. Christianity teaches that all people are born with a bent toward sin. It’s possible that some people will have a propensity toward alcohol abuse or angry outbursts, while others may have a propensity toward other sins. Regardless, Christians believe people are more than their sexual urges. We believe that human dignity is diminished whenever we define ourselves by sexual urges and behaviors. Consider this: married men are sometimes attracted to multiple women who are not their wives. Does this mean they should self-identify as polygamists? Not at all. And surely you wouldn’t consider it hateful for Christians to encourage married men not to act on their desires in an effort to remain faithful to their spouses. It is the Christian way, after all.

Host: No, but it still seems like you are telling people not to be true to who they are.

Pastor: It only seems that way because you believe sexual desire reflects the core of one’s identity. It would help if you and others who agree with you would understand that in your putting pressure on me to accept homosexual behavior as normal and virtuous, you are going to the very core of my identity as a follower of Jesus. The label most important to me is “Christian.” My identity – in Christ – is central to who I am. So I could say the same thing and call you intolerant, bigoted, and hateful for trying to change a conviction that goes to the core of who I am as a Christian. I don’t say that because I don’t believe that’s your intention. But neither should you think it’s my intention to attack a homosexual person or cause them harm merely because I disagree.

Host: But the problem is, your position fosters hate and encourages bullying.

Pastor: I recognize that some people have mistreated homosexuals in the past. It’s a shame that anyone anywhere would mock, taunt, or bully another human being made in God’s image. That said, I think we need to make one thing clear in regard to civil discourse: To differ is not to hate. I hope we can still have a real conversation in this country about different points of view without casting one another in the worst possible light. The idea that disagreeing with homosexual behavior necessarily results in harm to gay people is designed to shut down conversation and immediately rule one point of view (in this case, the Christian one) out of bounds. As a Christian, I am to love my neighbor and seek his good, even when I don’t see eye to eye with my neighbor. Furthermore, the picture of Christ on the cross dying for His enemies necessarily affects the way I think about this and other issues.

jacob the stutterer

We've all heard of Doubting Thomas, while what about Jacob the Stutterer?


Saturday, November 05, 2011

kingdom power

Scot McKnight nails it. The work Kingdom has become a flabby term in our current usage ... read his article. I can only add that this is one of my frustrations with the perceived social gospel - it simply isn't the Gospel at all.
. . Too many today have abstracted the ethical ideals from Jesus’ kingdom vision, all but cut Jesus out of the picture, and then called anything that is just, peace, good and loving the “kingdom.” The result is this equation: kingdom means goodness, goodness means kingdom. Regardless of who does it. My contention would be that kingdom goodness is done by kingdom people who live under King Jesus. I applaud goodness at large. This is not a question of either or but whether or not all goodness is kingdom goodness. Some say Yes, I say No.
He continues ...
Get out your Bible and find the references to kingdom and you will discover that it refers to a society in which God’s will is done, with Jesus as the King, where the Story of Israel finds its completion in the Story of Jesus and where that same Story of Jesus shapes everyone. Kingdom refers to that Davidic hope for the earthly world where God sets up his rule in the Messiah and where people live under that Messiah as God’s redeemed and liberated and healed and loving and peaceful and just people.

Yes, feeding the poor is good and it is God’s will for this world, whoever does it. But “kingdom” refers to that special society that does good under Jesus, that society that is buried in his death and raised in his resurrection and lives that Story out in our world today. It makes no sense to me to take this word of Jesus that he used to refer to what God was doing in and through him at that crucial new juncture in time and history and use it for something else.
Very good ... and I'll add that it contains a power beyond human means. For example, Jesus didn't have fund raiser to feed the masses. He didn't recommend occupying Rome to get some government funding to feed them. He didn't send the disciples Costco with a pile of coupons. He just did a God thing ...

the people i love bug me ...


Andrew Jones, of Tallskinnykiwi fame wrote this witty and insightful post. I thought it was interesting since today at lunch as my friends mentioned various cities I tossed back my favorite restaurants in each.

I love poor people and spend most of my time with them.
But
poor people bug me with the amount of DOGS they have. The greater their poverty, the more dogs they adopt. The dogs are always larger than they should be and they are always mean. In fact, the meanness of the dogs is proportional to the poverty of their owners.
I love rich people and I couldn't work in social enterprise without their support.
But
rich people bug me most when they boast about finding the best restaurant. Name a city and they immediately tell you the best place to eat, as they puff up like a peacock and pride themselves on their discovery. The degree of restaurant-boasting is proportional to the obscurity of the city. Hey - finding a restaurant is nothing to boast about. Learn to cook something fabulous and then boast about that!
I love non-Western countries and spend most of my time in them.
But
non-Western countries bug me most when they mess with their jeans. They just cant leave a pair of jeans alone. They have to add extra pockets and extra zips and little strips of fabric. Then they make up a stupid western sounding name and put 17 labels on it. The amount of junk on non-western jeans is proportional to the geographical distance to the west. Hey come on! Jeans look best when minimal. The more stuff you add to a pair of jeans, the less value. Just make a simple pair of jeans and leave them alone for all our sakes!
I love Western countries and I grew up in them.
But
Western countries bug me when they destroy a pair of jeans and try to charge me more money for them. They wash them with stones and razor blades. They beat the crap out of them and think they are doing me a favor. The extent to which a pair of jeans is forcibly decimated is proportional to the high price. The more holes, the more money. Hey - I can wear out my own jeans. Really.

Thursday, November 03, 2011

christianity is not socialism


I've had many people tell me Jesus was a socialist. I don't buy it. I like this from Terrell Clemmons.

Christianity: What's mine is yours.
Socialism: What's yours is mine.

Christianity: I am my brother's keeper.
Socialism: My brother is my keeper.

you ate my halloween candy

Wow!!! What kind of kids are we raising?

homeopathic medicine

This is making the rounds on the internet ... homeopathic emergency room ...

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

reftagger